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Pope Francis celebrates Christmas Eve Mass amid virus surge

ROME – Pope Francis celebrated Christmas Eve Mass in front of some 1,500 people at St Peter’s Basilica on Friday, continuing the service despite a resurgence in COVID-19 cases that has spurred a New vaccine mission for Vatican employees.

A maskless Francis makes his way down the central aisle of the basilica as the Sistine Chapel choir sings “Noel”, kicking off the Vatican’s Christmas holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus in the manger in St. Bethlehem.

The “midnight Mass” actually begins at 7:30 p.m., a nod to the 85-year-old pontiff’s endurance and a delay from last year, when service had to end before the COVID curfew -19 nationwide of Italy.

There is no curfew in place this year, but cases this week have increased even beyond 2020 levels. For the second day in a row, Italy on Friday set a daily record for a new pandemic. with 50,599 new cases. Another 141 people died, bringing Italy’s official death toll to 136,386.

The Vatican Secretary of State on Thursday imposed a new vaccination mandate on all Vatican employees, extending it to all staff except those who have recovered from the coronavirus. Previously, only employees who were in direct contact with the public had to be vaccinated, such as staff at the Vatican Museums and the Swiss Guard, while others could enter their offices. with regular testing. This duty does not apply to the faithful attending Mass, but they must wear a mask.

Francis has said vaccinations are an “act of love” and he has called on richer nations to provide the shots to the developing world.

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